Arsenic is a metalloid whose
compounds (species) exhibit significantly different levels of
toxicity, e.g. inorganic arsenic is classified as a class 1
carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer
whereas organoarsenicals in foodstuffs are thought to be less
Humans can be exposed to arsenic
through their diet, the environment and from occupational
Occupational exposure to inorganic
arsenic may occur in several industries: refining or smelting of
metal ores, microelectronics, pesticide manufacture or application,
semiconductor manufacturing, glass production, wood preservation,
joinery, battery manufacturing, and working in power plants that
burn arsenic-rich coal. It is also possible that workers in
waste management and landfill sites may be exposed to arsenic.
HSE Science and Research
Centre offers biological monitoring for five arsenic species
in a urine sample. These five species allow both dietary and
occupational exposure to be assessed. Total arsenic analysis
cannot differentiate between non-toxic dietary arsenic and the
toxic inorganic arsenic.
The major route of excretion for
arsenic in the body is by urine and following an exposure most
arsenic is excreted within 48 hours. Samples should be
taken post-shift towards the end of the working week.
Sampling should reflect normal working practice.
HSE scientists will help interpret
results from samples that we have analysed where required. We have
also established background levels of each of the five arsenic
species in unexposed people.
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